The beginning of February, we took a trip to Puerto Rico. I had never been, and actually had never really thought much about it. I knew that there was an old walled city, Old San Juan, and a dock for cruise ships. Little did I realize what a gem this United States Territory is. One of the fountains at the gardens of Ponce de Leon’s home, Casa Blanca. The gardens are sunken, with the house rising around them. We moved on to Luquillo towards the East end of the island. The beaches were orange, to my surprise. The waters in Luquillo varied from beach to beach. In a 45min walk along the first three heading east, I observed high waves for surfing, calmer waters for swimming, and a natural coral reef! I am a firm believer in the salt air and humidity for a healthy life. Puerto Rico has it!
We could see coconut and breadfruit trees from our windows, as well as hear the ocean. At night, coqui frogs sing, and it’s amazing.
El Yunque, the rainforest, is right there. I mere 10 minute drive from Luquillo.
Waterfalls, cascading pools, lush green, and tree ferns! It’s like being in the Fern Room at Garfield Park Conservatory, but real and everywhere! Puerto Rico has so much to offer. We’re already planning a trip back to see the islands of Culebra and Vieques, as well as the bio-luminous bays.
The past time of feeding the birds, I love it. My feathered friends start squawking and talking in the tree next door when I’m out refilling their seed. They know breakfast time for sure. About a month ago, I wanted to add an additional feeder, since I was going to be out of town in early Feb. To my surprise, it took them about a week to get used to the new food source. The first day or two, they wouldn’t even venture near the new feeder. Gradually, they got it. Now, the new feeder (that holds suet and seed) is a hit! Hurrah!
My advice for adding a new feeder:
- Put the new one near the old
- Give the birds some time
Birds ignoring the new feeder. A few curious ones, took a look, but it took a few days.
Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed for food. The loss of Milkweed is the main factor in the Monarch’s migration decline. This year has the lowest count of Monachs in Mexico, where they winter. We Midwesterners can help. Plant milkweed, and use only organic methods in your garden. Practice crop rotation and use neem oil for disease issues. PLEASE HELP OUR MONARCH FRIENDS.
More info can be read at Mother Nature Network.
Rosemary, the fragrance is pungent and piney. The taste is just wonderful when added to potatoes, omelets, or squash (to name a few). Native to the Mediterranean, but I know it to grow into fabulously lush bushes in parts of Texas. As for us up in the North, it’s a herb we have to start each year in our gardens.
When it comes to growing rosemary, I’ve always found it easiest to take a clipping and root it in water. I gathered several clippings from the garden this past fall, and the roots finally seem substantial enough to pot. It’s quite trendy these days to have rosemary topiaries for Christmas, these are great to take clippings from also.
- From experience, I take more clippings than I think I’ll need (just in case a few perish).
- Set in a jar of water in a sunny window (I only add to the water, never clean it out).
- After months, these guys will start growing root hairs.
- Prepare a pot with potting soil, and transplant the clipping, making sure to get all roots under the soil surface.
- Water deeply (I let my Rosemary dry out between waterings).
- Keep in a sunny warm spot.
- Once it is past the last frost date (think mid-late May), transplant outdoors.
Good Luck and Happy Indoor Winter Gardening!!
It’s cold, -14 for a high, cold in Chicago today. You can amuse yourself with throwing boiling water and watching it turn to vapor! But that’s only fun for a bit. There’s an entire day to spend inside. I decided to share some of my winter photos with you. Winter, when winter allowed you to go outside. Enjoy!
This was taken in St. Paul, Minnesota. View from the historic Hill House.
The view out of my Mom’s window in Minnesota. Her neighbor makes a walk in the snow fun for all!
The first winter storm we had (Chicago Lake Shore). Snow is beautiful.
An evening (4pm) at the Glencoe Beach…sorta looks like the artic.
It’s autumn, and it’s getting cold. Plants are changing…some dying…some turning beautiful colors and dropping. Asters and mums are at their peak. What do you do to prepare for the next season, beloved restful winter?
dahlias after a frost
An easy list to do over the cooler days of fall. After the first frost, some plants that are extremely tender, will perish.
- Gather any seeds you wish to keep for next year (for me this includes cleome, cosmos, coneflower).
- Remove annuals that didn’t make the frost (this can change from point to point in your garden, depending on microclimates).
- Remove all tomato and pepper plants (These should not be composted).
- Remove any diseased plant matter and toss. This is anything that has a wilt look to it, powdery mildew, or black spot on it (Do not compost). Full list of problems at University of Illinois, Extension.
- Cut peonies down to the ground. Leave roots in ground.
- Cut back dahlia, caladium, elephant ears, glads, and any other tender bulb/tuber. Dig up the roots and store in newspaper in a paper bag in your basement or someplace cool and dark that won’t freeze. In spring, these can all be planted again.
Things to keep after the frost.
- Kale and chard can take the frost, and actually improve in flavor.
- Snap dragons, pansy, asters, mums will all like the cooler weather. It’s their favorite time.
- Leave grasses and seeded plants like coneflower for birds to eat and play in and for some added winter interest for you to look at when the ground is snowy white.
- Parsley, oregano, and sage seem to not mind the cold either, all should come back next spring.
Planning for next year.
- Take cuttings of rosemary, fuchsia, coleus. These will root in water and can be planted inside through the winter and finally transplanted outdoors in the spring.
- Plant garlic, tulips, crocus, and daffodil bulbs.
Cherish each season in your garden. The fall, a time to gather and and slow down.
As you sit in the garden, especially this time of year, things tend to look overgrown or dead. It’s harvest, but looking deeper, the small little flowers still have life in them. Enjoy!
Pansy has made it through the entire summer, still blooming.
Verbena has self seeded since the first year of the garden.
This mint has a home between the two, yes the weird two, fences between our garden and the neighbor’s.
German Chamomile that reseeds every year!
Cleome that also reseeds quite nicely.
This fuchsia is from a trimming of last year’s. Seems to have worked out well.
Johnny jump ups, that jump up everywhere!
Borage, the bees love it, but it tends to get BIG!
Rosemary flowering, this is first for me to see!
A common occurrence, Che Pug eating tomatoes.
Someone’s rock collections on the beach
Just an hour or so north of Chicago, near the Wisconsin border, Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach – State Park offers swimming/hiking/camping/picnicking! I went one hot afternoon in late August and found the beach a little rocky, but beautiful. There are also trails into the wetlands that offer up prime examples of the swampy marshes that used to cover the entire Lake Michigan area.
Feather in the sand.
The sand is beautiful, the waves soothing, and the water pleasantly cool. I’d suggest to take along some shoes or toughen up your feet for wadding.
I found the nature trail very enjoyable. It brings you down around a river where turtles sunbathe.
I startled a group of turtles on this rock. Note, when turtles are scared, they move quickly.
So many surprising wildflowers and gold finches everywhere.
Queen Anne’s lace
Prickly pear. This was a surprise for me. I thought they were only in South Texas.
Monarch on Liatris
Worth an afternoon visit, you won’t be disappointed.
It’s time! It’s time to harvest the garlic. When the top four leaves are about half brown, it’s ready. You are suppose to stop watering for a few days and then dig them out. I did neither. First of all, my garden is not very formal, and therefore, the garlic did not have a specific bed unto themselves. SO, I continued to water, and I pulled them out. You’ll have to decide what you want to do. I guess it all depends on your garden style and needs. The only thing that happened with my way was that I lost half a bulb. Not too bad.
After you’ve pulled your garlic, get them out of the sun quickly (they actually will sunburn).
Next, cure. I’ve placed mine on my back porch stairs. It’s cool and dark. They’re to cure for 3 weeks. After picking and the leaves have turned brown, you can braid the stalks or trim stalks and fibrous roots to half an inch. Remember, keep your bulbs dark and cool. In the meantime, I’ve used some uncured cloves in a spaghetti sauce (it’s also tomato time at my house).
Think about saving a bulb or two for seed to plant in the fall. Choose bulbs with large cloves. The larger the cloves, the bigger the bulbs will be for next year’s harvest.
Most of all, enjoy your home grown garlic!
This summer, I’ve been mostly away from my garden with a long trip to the West and West Coast (post soon) and a few trips to Minnesota. Little did I know when I said I wanted a meadow this past winter that I may have gotten it. It’s not really a meadow, but I did put out some wildflower seed. The only things that seem to have taken hold, wildly, are flax, sunflowers, bachelor buttons, and a poppy.
bachelor buttons or blue cornflower
love in mist mixed in with the strawberries
pale pink poppy
Personally, I like a self seeding garden with the likes of:
- love in midst
- cone flower
- snap dragons
garden helper Che
sweet alyssum with blue denim salvia
miniature pink hollyhock, a biennial
cone flower that is a perennial but also seeds new plants each year
sun gold tomato with a sunflower in the background
Mixed in with perennials and a few annuals, they make for a very full garden. Lucky for me, I’m back just in time for my tomatoes, along with lots of weeding and thinning. One thing I did try earlier this season with some arugula from my sister-in-law’s garden was arugula pesto. Substituting arugula for basil. I also used pecans to try to sweeten it up some. It had a pretty bitter bite, but was tasty as a topping on pizza. Who knew? Hope you too are enjoying your mid summer garden.